The Buy Pile

Thu, May 13th, 2010 at 12:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted (how?) into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that...which goes something like this...

THE BUY PILE FOR MAY 12TH, 2010

"Prince of Power" #1
Prince of Power #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Amadeus Cho is back and he's everything you need in a post-modern extrahuman protagonist. Unusual skill set? Yep, he's a hypermind, calculating billions of variables like simple addition. Ability to whup ass? Check: armed with Braniac Five's...er, Bruce Banner's new personal force field and the divinely powered adamantine mace of his fallen friend Hercules, he goes toe to toe with the Griffin in the opening sequence. Resources to further his quest for justice? Close enough: with Hera dead and Athena shmucking around with the Council of Godheads, he's taken over the reins of The Olympus Group (no relation to the cameras...maybe) and with the Goddess of Youth as his very own Pepper Potts, he spent over half a trillion dollars ("Actually, more like $634,342,333,832.37") while accidentally creating whole universes (oops) and coming into contact with some of Bruce Banner's old friends from the Peter David era ("... the eminence grise...without the grise..." if memory serves). An entertaining and fun bit of heroism with a very different slant.

"Booster Gold" #32
Booster Gold #32
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Do not call this a comeback: the brains behind the "bwa-ha-ha" era have brought the 25th century's most unusual hero back to the goofy heights of the Justice League International era. This time, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis have a script that takes Booster's time-travel tactics into the shadows of some of the DCU's greatest stories. There, with deft skill and subtle brushes of characterization (the Fatal Five guest appearance and the work with Jenneaux Riel are top notch), they give Booster everything he needs to work in a comic book: humor, danger, heroism and whimsy, all bundled up in nice, open line work and clear colors from Chris Batista, Rich Perrotta, and Hi-Fi. A fantastic return to form for one of DC's most distinctive heroes.

"Fables" #95
Fables #95
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

How about this: the secret history of Rose Red and Snow White. Turns out they had a number of rather fascinating childhood adventures, including brushing snow out of bear fur and saving thieving dwarfs, bracketed by prophetic dreams and magical creatures. This issue brushes against that history, centering on why Rose and Snow aren't as close as they once were. As issues go, it's a little bit of an establishing shot, which is not bad but otherwise plays a little slowly for an example of the finest title on the stands.

"Adventure Comics" #11

Adventure Comics #11
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Time for a short, shameful confession: the writer of these reviews is a sucker for the Legion (and yes, that's two LSH related comics in the Buy Pile in one week). By tying together the story of Braniac, the legacy of Kandor and the history of the Legion, this delivers a surprisingly effective set of small stories that make a new future for the team of teens. There are a number of interesting surprises, adding in Jemm the Son of Saturn and three Braniacs in one issue and even Mon-El gets a rough path towards heroism. For people who have no grounding in these characters, the names might not mean much and this story doesn't hit emotional notes that would resonate. For Legion devotees, however, this is solid gold, and done with the dyed-in-the-wool fan in mind.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Damned fine comics this week...and how about that performance from DC, huh?

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy

Whatever one could say about "New Avengers Finale" #1 may as well be said about "Dark Avengers" #16 as well, which together had about one solid comic book worth of material between them. New jobs for Steve Rogers, Diamondback and Victoria Hand held court with some cute moments of personal interaction, but there was a whole lotta fluff around them. Good looking, sounded good, but ultimately had very, very little content to go around...some of the reason for that will be discussed below. Way below.

If you like shows like "Chuck" and comics like "2 Guns" and "Cover Girl," you'll probably like "Frenemy of the State" #1, a comic that's strong on craft and easy on your brain. A spoiled heiress, a secret CIA program, frantic escapes, gun-toting heavies in suits...somewhere, Sydney Bristowe is nodding happily at this despite being married to a man with a head the size of Ben Affleck...but we digress. Harmless fun here, but hardly something that demands to come home with you.

"Titans: Villains for Hire Special" #1 featured Slade Wilson taking a page from Tony Stark with his own group of "cape killers" made from villains and failed would-be heroes. They stick to business, determining that a group of like-minded extrahumans with homicide in mind can in fact get together and kill a hero. The action scenes were solid, the recruitment scenes were predictable but all right and the art held up.

A soldier has gone bad in "G.I. Joe: Operation Hiss" #4, which trades on the movie's continuity and has Major Bludd enacting a major terrorist act on US soil. The stakes are high, the plot's adequately clever but it doesn't really give you any serious indication that Cobra won't end up like the Washington Generals again.

"Justice League: Generation Lost" #1 is Maxwell Lord's big return to the DC Universe, and he borrows a page from Charles Baudelaire in amping up his powers to a level so great that they could mirror the power of Mephisto's campaign against marriage or Zatanna brainwashing Arthur Light. The four heroes who can remember him...well, they're not exactly top notch names. Max coming back as a world class threat, sure, that adds up. Even his angsty weird monologue with Booster, that's okay. The application of his powers, the hamfisted plans for his arrest...we're all better than that, though.

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

"R.E.B.E.L.S." #16, "Sword" #24, "Transformers: Ironhide" #1, "New Mutants" #13, "Magog" #9, "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" #2, "Batman" #699, "New Avengers: Luke Cage" #2, "Witchblade" #136, "Avengers: The Initiative" #35, "Flash" #2, "Farscape: Scorpius" #1, "Iron Man 2: Public Identity" 33, "Birds of Prey" #1 

No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...

Oh. Wow. Okay. "Siege" #4 and "Sentry: Fallen Son" are both universally awful. "Sentry: Fallen Son" is whiny, self-indulgent and limp in its funerary rites, but it's practically the work of Faulkner compared to "Siege" #4, which somehow managed to tie "Blackest Night" #8 as the worst comic book of the last two years. A dazzling feat, that. The climactic battle scene had all of the story logic of four six year olds with bath towels around their neck, jumping around in the back yard. The briar patch styled conclusion was tried in "The Authority" many years ago (with less than successful results), the singular change to the status quo was less than compelling...if this was an event "eight years in the making," either it was left in too long or the ingredients weren't right to start. An awe-inspiring showing of failure summed up by one of the issue's characters: "I can't believe that you can't believe it."

There was no reason for the punching and kicking between cousins that took up way too much space in "Superman: War of the Supermen" #2. Tie that in with the grandstanding of generals, strategic decisions that border on lunacy (the first line of defense for Earth is 130 million miles away?) and the master plan of Earth's smartest man...would actually doom the entire human race to extinction if it was ever enacted (which anyone who ever studied science and learned about the sun would know). Oy.

"Ain't no saints in Africa, is all I'm saying." With that clearly factual statement from noted social commentator Wolverine, "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis" #1 declares the entire continent a strife-battered, disease-ridden, corrupt cesspool. Really? Can we get Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in here? Really? A hateful, tedious bit of comics that had at its root the idea that a large populace of extrahuman babies being born in sub-Saharan Africa. Funny, Stormfront didn't note that they were putting out any propaganda this month...

Finally, "Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne" #1 was so very pretty. Really, Chris Sprouse is a man who can draw some good looking pictures. However, the baffling history trip (an extended version of Captain America's stupid time travelogue) simply makes no sense...especially with the "just missed him" cameo. Terrible!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Six to five on the good to bad scale with a mountain of "meh" in between. That's not exactly encouraging...although admittedly time ran out and many, many comics remained unread.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Four killer purchases and a slight edge on adequate reads has to beat even some seriously stinky and stupid comics on the other end of the spectrum...right?

THE BUSINESS

Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially.

The blog thing is still in process. Shut up. Stupid Google.

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